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Dawgs to rely on talent, experience this year
Ceres Highs varsity boys wrestling program welcomes back a host of talent from a season ago, including senior John Alba. Alba qualified for the CIF State Championships as a junior. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

The Ceres High varsity boys wrestling program's roster is loaded with talent and experience.

"We have so many returning wrestlers that know our system," said Steve Festa, fourth-year head coach of the Bulldogs. "You'll see consistency and results because of that. We're going to have a great year."

Festa, who previously coached at Mae Hensley Jr. High for six years, has a special bond with the majority of grapplers on his team.

Seniors Frankie Mendez (106s), Luis Camarillo (132s), John Alba (160s), Aiden Moore (170s), Diego Diaz (195s/220s) and Conner Johnson (220s), and juniors Tyler Fleming (128s), Joseph Martinez (152s), Oscar Contreras (160s) and David Caravalho (182s) have been wrestling for Festa since the seventh grade.

"They're family," Festa said. "I try to enjoy every moment and not take anything for granted."

Alba, Diaz and junior Jaden Cooper (145s) are team captains.

Alba enjoyed a success-filled junior campaign.

John advanced to the CIF State Championships.

He won 50 of 61 matches on the year, placed fifth at Masters, finished second at Divisonals and claimed his second consecutive Western Athletic Championship.

"John Alba is the best returning wrestler in our league," Festa said. "He's elite. He's ranked fourth in our section."

Moore, Cooper and Camarillo all advanced to Masters last season.

Aiden took second at Divisionals and captured the 154-pound WAC title.

Cooper placed second at Divisionals and fourth at the WAC finals.

Camarillo was fourth at Divisionals and in league.

Ceres High will try to end crosstown-rival Central Valley's run of dominance in the Western Athletic Conference.

Winners of back-to-back WAC overall titles, the Hawks reeled off 18 straight dual victories over the past three seasons.

Central Valley also made program history by finishing first at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships and Team Duals.

The Bulldogs finished second behind the Hawks at both events.

Ceres High also had to settle for runner-up honors in the WAC.

"Our goals have not changed and they won't," Festa said. "This is one of the best groups I've ever coached. The courage it takes to do what they do is special."